LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
It might sound really obvious, but choosing an agent close to your rental property makes sound business sense.
Letting agents who live and breathe an area are the best equipped to rent your property quickly, and for many reasons:
- they'll always be nearby for viewings, which for lettings can be last minute.
- they'll have a list of potential tenants looking for a property just like yours.
- they'll know exactly what rents are achievable to keep your income flowing.
- they'll know all about transport links as well as the best places to eat, drink & shop.
- they'll have a pool of local contractors who can help with presentation and repairs.
Ask about the size of the area your agent covers. Are they truly local experts, or are they spreading themselves too thin? Nobody can be in two places at once, and a random smattering of properties that are a long way from each other could mean travelling long distances between appointments. This cuts down on the number of viewings an agent can attend and dilutes their local expertise and profile.
PRETEND TO BE A TENANT
There's no better way of finding out what a company is really like than by posing as a customer. As a landlord and possible client, letting agents will be going all-out to impress you, but you also need to know how they talk to potential tenants.
Take a look at an agent's website and find a property to enquire about, then prepare a few questions that aren't covered in the description to test their knowledge and customer service. You're not looking to be awkward or to catch them out; you're simply doing some fact-finding around the experience of dealing with them. If you don't feel comfortable making the call yourself, ask a friend to do it for you.
Your questions should be easy to answer without someone needing to call you back. Try asking what parking is like on the street, how much passing traffic there is, or how noisy the neighbourhood is at night. You can't find those answers on Google maps, and a good letting agent will know their stuff.
Look for how long it takes the agent to answer the phone, then for how polite, professional and interested they are. Do they have an obvious knowledge of the property you've enquired about? Do they invite you to view or ask about the type of home you're looking to rent? And how does your experience leave you feeling – like you've made a new friend, or like an interruption to someone's day?
PROMOTION & PERFORMANCE
To be sure of reaching the best selection of tenants, your property needs to be on at least one of the national portals, so ask about an agent's choice of channel and why they made that decision. Agents have varying results with different portals, so one isn't necessarily right over another. What matters most is that whichever portal your agent has chosen will get you the right result.
Now take a look at how they describe the homes they rent. Are their descriptions enthusiastic and informative? Lettings can be fast-moving, so they don't need to be War & Peace – or even Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone – but they should at least be clear and helpful, and they should make you want to view.
Finally, ask your agent about their results. What's the average time it takes them to find a tenant? Do homes like yours rent quicker or faster than others? Can they show you examples of successful recent lettings?
Be wary of false promises. Look for answers that are believable and realistic.
COMMUNICATION & CARE
Something we often hear from our landlords is how much they feel they matter to us. You can't put a price on sentiment like that, and you deserve the same.
When you're speaking to agents, ask for details of their service standards to ensure that whatever they are offering is compatible with what you need.
What's their system for giving you feedback after viewings? Not every property goes in its first week on the market, and you'll want constructive advice and unfiltered commentary to know what action to take.
Will you have a specific point of contact for when you want to get in touch? Ask them how and when they'll keep you up-to-date.
Happy landlords are our number one priority, and we make sure they feel valued and remembered.
TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS
Every letting agent you meet could say all the right things and impress you with their knowledge and results, so which one do you choose?
We could list countless more points and essential tips on what to look for in a letting agent, but one thing you should never overlook is how it feels when you're talking to them.
Using a letting agent is a long-term relationship. As well as finding one who measures up to everything we've set out here, you should enjoy speaking to the person who'll be looking after you and your investment—someone who gives you the comforting sense that you're in safe hands.
Of course, we hope you find that in us. The best way to feel completely comfortable is to get every question and concern answered, so ask us anything you want to feel 100% sure.
Choosing the best letting agent for you combines practical concerns around a company's location, customer service and results, along with the personal qualities of the agent you meet and talk to. Ultimately you want to feel that you've added a valuable addition to your buy-to-let business.